By Michael Baadke
Golfer Babe Zaharias, one of the premier athletes of the 20th century, was born Mildred Ella Didriksen on June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas. As a youngster she excelled in all sports, and reportedly earned the nickname “Babe,” after baseball legend Babe Ruth, when she hit five home runs in a single baseball game.
At some point she changed the spelling of her last name to Didrikson.
She excelled in track and field, and broke records at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games, winning gold in the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles, and silver in the high jump.
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Though she had golfed in high school, she took up the sport in earnest after the Olympics, and quickly dominated. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1948 and became a leader of the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.
She met her husband, professional wrestler and actor George Zaharias, during a golf exhibition, and they were married Dec. 23, 1938.
Babe Zaharias was diagnosed with cancer in 1953, and died at age 45 on Sept. 27, 1956.
An 18¢ commemorative stamp honoring Babe Zaharias was issued Sept. 22, 1981 (Scott 1932).